Christmas Fire Safety: Tips & Advice
‘Tis the season to ensure festive fire safety. Christmas time is a period where everything can get a little hectic in commercial, residential and educational environments. Unfortunately, Christmas is also a time when the number of fire hazards present in these locations increases.
Yearly, Christmas trees and decorations are responsible for fires that can lead to casualties and candles have caused around 1,000 fires in a single annum. Knowing how to prevent fires this Christmas can help ensure smooth operation throughout the whole winter period, making sure all guests, employees and site users are safe.
With so much to think about this festive season and complacency being one of the biggest indirect causes of fire, Dorset Fire Protection is giving the gift of Christmas Fire Safety with some helpful tips and advice.
Christmas trees, no matter how festive, are still trees. There’s a reason you put wood on your open fire and use it as a fuel source because it burns very well.
If you do not have a real tree at Christmas, make sure to purchase an artificial tree that is fire-retardant. It won’t prevent a fire completely but it definitely takes longer for the flames to catch and spread.
A Christmas tree in a room full of furniture has the potential of going up like a tinderbox if risks are not prevented and countered. Here are some of the ways you can control the risks facing your Christmas tree:
Make sure it’s fresh
If you’re choosing to buy a real tree this year, ensure that you don’t pick up an outdated one. Aged trees tend to be drier and more flammable. A strong green colour and a noticeable fragrance should be a good indication. To give it a check, tap it on the ground and make sure that only a few needles drop off.
Keep it watered
The fresh pine scent of a Christmas tree will lose its charm when it’s bare and stinks of smoke so it’s important to make your tree as fire-resistant as possible. Christmas trees can drink up to two pints of water daily and should be stood in a bucket of water to ensure they have constant access. This bucket should be frequently topped up.
So how does this make your tree more resistant to fire? A well-watered tree holds moisture which prevents a fast spread. It will still catch fire but it will take longer, meaning there’s more time to deal with the issue or escape.
Below you can find a rather alarming video of the difference in fire spread between a watered and unwatered tree fire.
Switch it off
We’ll cover more shortly about the risks that Christmas lights pose but it’s important to remember that you should never leave any source of heat unattended. The longer the lights are on, the more time they have to heat up and when no one is around, they should be switched off.
If you’re the forgetful type, consider investing in a Christmas light timer to make sure your lights get turned off every night. This can also help your electric bill be more of a nice list and help it not feel like coal in your stocking.
Keep flames at bay
Trees are flammable. Even a single spark on a dry tree can cause an inferno in less than a minute. You wouldn’t put a stack of A4 paper above a candle so why put a whole tree and a bunch of presents close by? Do you have an open fire? Use a fireguard to prevent embers from escaping.
Just give everything adequate space and treat a tree as what it is around open flames: a fuel.
There’s a surprising amount of decorations that are made from flammable substances. Tissue paper, cardboard, card and wood are just some of them.
Never attach them to lights or heaters and keep them far away from candles. Make sure to not place decorations or greetings cards directly above or around the fireplace as this can pose a significant ignition threat.
Christmas lights are one of the most popular decorations during the festive season. Domestic and commercial properties use them in equal measure to brighten up their premises but Christmas lights can pose a significant fire risk.
It should be noted that many of the risks highlighted below also apply for fairy lights.
Lots of homes and businesses have a box of Christmas decorations hidden away somewhere that get pulled out every December. Within this box, there are metres and metres of Christmas lights, tangled up beyond human belief and dating back to a year no one can really put their finger on.
Old and outdated lights can be electrically unsafe and faulty. If they show any signs of wear, or you can’t determine their age, it’s probably time to consider buying new lights that are manufactured to contemporary safety regulations.
Christmas lights are on for very long periods of time. Filaments heat up, glass shatters and overuse can cause overheating. This can cause trees to get overheated but often what causes the first spark is a fault with the lighting.
Make sure to check the wiring and condition of your decorations before hanging them anywhere. Damaged cords can also lead to electrical shorts and electric shocks that can cause life-changing burns. If your lights are damaged, throw them away.
Pets and wild animals can also cause damage to Christmas lights (indoors and outdoors) with curious teeth and claws. Not only can it cause animals electric shocks but it can also cause new issues over the period of time the lights are up, so make sure the check them frequently.
Indoor lights are meant for the indoors. It’s not difficult and it’s usually very clearly marked on the packaging. While outdoor lights CAN be used inside, the same is not true the other way around as indoor lighting isn’t designed to face the elements.
You should also avoid hanging lights near potential fire hazards such as candles, heaters and fireplaces. Bulbs should also not be close to flammable materials.
Overloading sockets is dangerous at any time of year but at Christmas, there’s usually a lot more than needs to be plugged in. Do not be tempted to overload sockets unsafely. Here are some top tips on safely using sockets:
- Only use one socket extension lead per socket
- Never plug an extension lead into another extension lead
- Check the wattage of each individual appliance
- Use a multiway bar extension lead rather than a block adaptor
- Check sockets regularly for changes/overheating/marks
Check your fire safety equipment
Avoiding disaster is all about making sure you’re prepared. At Christmas, businesses and residential properties do have a lot to deal with so being confident about your fire safety equipment is key.
Ensure your fire alarms are tested regularly throughout the holiday season and always have a supply of batteries to make sure you’re not tempted to remove them from safety equipment.
Having working fire alarms and fire extinguishers on hand can be the difference between two very different outcomes this festive season and it’s always better to be prepared.
From everyone at Dorset Fire Protection, we’re very grateful for your continued support year after year. We hope you all stay safe this holiday season and enjoy your festivities!
This article was written by Gary Askew, Managing Director of Dorset Fire Protection.
He has over 20 years of experience of supplying fire prevention measures and finding premium solutions.